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Starship Excelsior celebrates contribution from Tom Antonellis, VO artist

Audio Drama websiteI'm very happy to announce I've been cast in fan-favorite audio podcast Starship Excelsior: A Star Trek Fan Production in a very meaty and enjoyable Guest Star role as 'The Man.' The Man is a leader within the Island Confederation, a nation imperiled by the environmental recklessness of his planet's Capitol -- a shrewd politician, he wants to protect his people.

Many thanks to the James Heaney and the producers and the whole Excelsior team for welcoming me aboard!

Upon the release of the episode, Executive Producer James Heaney sent us all out an email alerting us as to the release and, in it, praised all the participants.  He was kind enough to single out my contribution with some compliments and I followed up the email asking if I could use parts of the email as a testimonial.  Instead he offered to pen one anew because he said he had "lots to say."


"For the latest episode of Starship Excelsior, we had a couple of characters who needed a heavy alien accent -- thick enough to conceal a mistaken-identity plot twist -- but still light enough to be understood in our audio format, where subtitles and non-verbal cues are not available to the audience. It had to be alien because it's a planet on the far side of the galaxy, yet had to be human enough to be relatable...even a little primitive-sounding, because of the context. Oh, and they are both characters with major emotional arcs over the course of our episode, so it wasn't enough to get somebody who could do an accent; we also needed somebody who could ACT.
We knew this would be a toughie, so we invited Tom Antonellis to take up the more important of the two parts. He wrote me back in four minutes flat, and we spent much of the next day discussing the character and the voice I was looking for. I had only a few loose notes -- I liked the "Belter" creole from The Expanse, whose Jamaican origins fit well with [our] characters, who live in an archipelago [which is] in the midst of some sci-fi environmental turmoil.
From there, Tom worked up an accent, with its own somewhat-human/somewhat-alien rules, all by himself. It was just what we were looking for. It was alien but human, thick but not so thick as to obscure the effective emotional performance he delivered. He made it sound easy!
It was not.
[Further,] Tom sent us the text files he'd written describing the precise rules for the accent, and we spent the next three solid weeks auditioning various other members of our company for the second Islander part. Nobody else could do it. They all lost the accent and ended up sounding like Irishmen...or they clung to the accent for dear life, forgot to act the part, and ended up sounding like robots. (Alien robots, but still.) We went through half-a-dozen actors before we finally found a guy who could do a passable job following Tom's rules and sounding good doing it. We're a tiny little audio drama for Star Trek fans; we've never gone through that many actors before, but we had to keep up with the high bar Tom had set.
All was well.
Unfortunately, during pre-release [audience] testing, we found that listeners had a difficult time understanding Tom's words in context with the other characters. Just listening to his file in isolation had been fine, but add in other characters without accent and the switching between voices turned out to be a high tax on the listeners -- it pulled them out of the scene.
Now...Tom wasn't under contract with us, so there was a good chance we were up a crick. I wrote to Tom and explained to him the situation, then asked him to re-record at least his introductory scene with a lighter accent, so listeners would at least have a chance to adjust. And then we hoped for the best.
Tom called me less than five minutes later to talk things through. He immediately understood the issue and suggested some tweaks to the accent, which he demonstrated on the spot [on the phone]. (It was much clearer.) He volunteered to redo not just the one scene but all his lines for the episode...not an insubstantial commitment for a Guest Star in a 90-minute two-part show! Despite the fact that he had a major gig that would take up much of his week, he squeezed us in, and we were able to redo the scene. The test audiences loved the new version, which still had all the alien characteristics we were looking for, but was just a little easier on the ears. Hopefully our wide audiences love it, too!
But the bottom line is, Tom did a ludicrous amount of work on extremely short timetables, did that work excellently, went way above and beyond the call of duty... and did all this for a fan series. He's a consummate professional, and we're lucky to have had him on. Hopefully we'll be able to have him on again in the future... but something tells me the professional acting world is going to fill his dance card before we get another crack at him!"

- James Heaney, Executive Producer - Starship Excelsior A Star Trek Fan Production 
To book Tom Antonellis for your next project, contact Julia Irzyk at The Library Agency.

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